Home Genres Hip Hop Ghostface Killah through the years: the good, the weird, and the ugly

Ghostface Killah through the years: the good, the weird, and the ugly

Ghostface Killah through the years: the good, the weird, and the ugly
Image: Mark Horton / Getty Images

Last week, Ghostface Killah returned to the rap landscape with The Lost Tapes, a 13-song package that demonstrated his fidelity to old-school ’90s hip hop and the titans of that era, from his fellow Wu-Tang men Raekwon, Cappadonna and Masta Killa, to friends like Snoop Dogg and E-40.

In that sense, The Lost Tapes is a portrait of Ghostface on familiar ground. But the 48-year-old rapper has taken plenty of head-scratching left turns over the course of his storied career. Walk through five of the stranger points in Ghostface Killah’s history with us.

His collaborative album with BADBADNOTGOOD, Sour Soul

Sour Soul, released in 2015, capped off an artistically explorative period for Ghostface: His grand, cinematic adventures with composer Adrian Younge were captured in two 12 Reasons to Die albums, while he entrusted all the music on 2014’s 36 Seasons to Brooklyn soul group The Revelations.

Of all these collaborative endeavors, the BADBADNOTGOOD record stands out. When the Toronto jazz group started working with producer Frank Dukes and Ghostface on what would become Sour Soul, they were still rookies with only two albums under their belts. Sure, they’d proven their rap fandom with their J Dilla and Odd Future covers, and been cosigned by Tyler, the Creator. But who’d expected them to make an entire record with a member of the Wu-Tang Clan?

Fans who’ve followed Ghostface’s entire career know he’s no stranger to different sounds and genres—his R&B outings, in particular, come to mind. 12 Reasons to Die had already primed listeners for the jazzy, ’70s stylings of Sour Soul, which is why this record, though remarkable, sits on the less bizarre end of this spectrum.

His foray into cryptocurrency, Cream Capital

From the 1993 classic “CREAM” to the 2003 Chappelle’s Show sketch “Wu-Tang Financial,” it’s common knowledge that Wu-Tang have always been about their money—which was why the world was not blindsided, only tickled by news last October that Ghostface was getting into cryptocurrency as the co-founder of Cream Capital (the best name for a crypto company, bar none).

The blockchain payment systems company is only approaching a year in business, but it’s already made notable headway, expanding its cryptocurrency ATM operations beyond its base of North Carolina into Texas, California and Louisiana.

Ghostface has plenty on his plate with music alone, but he is very much involved in the company: He is currently listed as its chief branding officer, and earlier this year appeared at a German tech fair for a fireside conversation about crypto with an equally unexpected interlocutor: Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands.

His Rich Brian cosign and remix of “Dat $tick”

Ghostface is a man of his word. When Asian music collective 88rising asked him for his two cents on the dad chic-reppin’ viral video sensation that was “Dat $tick” by Rich Brian (formerly Rich Chigga), he approved—and even offered to appear on a remix.

“It’s different,” Ghostface proclaimed at the end of the 88rising reaction video. “It ain’t the same shit you’re seeing, everybody trying to get blinged out and be like that. He’s just him. That’s dope! I’ll get on that track, you know what I’m saying?”

And he made good on that promise, appearing on the official remix with Floridian SoundCloud rapper Pouya. It feels a little anachronistic hearing Ghostface rhyme over the luminous, thoroughly 21st-century “Dat $tick” beat. And while the original hit still reigns supreme, it’s not a bad remix by any means. This and Sour Soul both go to show that the magnanimous Tony Starks has no problem working with rookies—if the talent is there.

His appearance at Australian grilled cheese joint, Toastface Grillah

Wu-Tang monikers really do lend themselves to some magnificent puns. Case in point: Toastface Grillah, a sandwich joint tucked away in an alleyway in Perth, Australia.

When Ghostface was touring Down Under some years ago, then-Triple J radio host Kyran Wheatley told him of the grilled sandwich shop. That culminated in Ghostface holding a short, impromptu performance down that alley. Ghostface Killah at Toastface Grillah—say that three times fast.

The story doesn’t end there, though. It turns out that after Ghostface made contact in 2014, he stayed in touch with the owners of Toastface Grillah, who even flew over to New York to scope out some possible leases. “We got over there and scouted heaps of great locations in Chinatown on the Lower East Side,” co-owner Alister Miles told Broadsheet, “At the end of the day, though, it just didn’t suit us.”

They did, however, open a sister shop named Lil’ Toastface in 2016. The Wu-Tang-grilled cheese love affair continues.

His feud with pharma bro Martin Shkreli over a lost Wu-Tang album

Feuds have been the lifeblood of hip hop for decades. There’s nothing like good, juicy rap beef, whether it’s the East Coast vs West Coast rivalry that raged throughout the ’90s, or the more contained but no-less-potent spats between specific artists.

The most interesting feuds, though, are those between rappers and non-rappers (recall when Kanye West told America that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”). And one of the most bizarre squabbles of recent years has to be the bad blood between Ghostface and ‘pharma bro’ Martin Shkreli.

Most know Shkreli as the former pharmaceutical CEO and hedge fund manager who became something of a public enemy du jour in late 2015 when he bought the drug Daraprim, which is used to treat a deadly infection in HIV/AIDS patients, and raised its price from $13.50 to an astonishing $750 per pill.

But hip hop heads know Shkreli, too, as the man who bought the sole copy of Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin for a cool $2 million that same year. The feud began when Ghostface, man of the people, labeled Shkreli a “shithead,” telling TMZ, “I don’t even know him, but what he did with the AIDS [medication], that’s not right.”

Less than a week later, Shkreli fired back in a video, threatening to erase all of Ghostface’s parts on Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, which played in the background while he stood surrounded by three masked, supposedly menacing ‘goons.’ Ghostface responded with a nearly 12-minute-long video, where he and his family members gave Shkreli a piece of their minds for drastically raising the price of Daraprim.

Ultimately, Ghostface had the last laugh: Shkreli was arrested by the FBI on charges of security fraud in late 2015, and was sentenced to seven years in prison earlier this year. “Fuck that n***a,” Ghost told Revolt TV after the verdict—a pithy conclusion to a bizarre feud.

Stream The Lost Tapes here.